Alister McGrath says presuppositions – and not just Christian ones – can hinder progress.
There are undoubtedly cases where Christian, or indeed philosophical, presuppositions have hindered scientific advance. Let me give an example of each from the 16th century. Christians got so used to reading the Bible on the assumption that the sun went round the earth that, in effect, they assumed that the Bible said that the sun went around the earth. Whereas, in fact, they were simply reading it with this presupposition, they got so used to it they failed to realise it was just some presupposition, not something that was there in the text.
And so that is a clear indication of something that actually impeded scientific progress. There was cultural resistance to this, but when you began to read Scripture more clearly, you should be able to realise it didn’t actually say this, it was simply assumed it said this.
But there are other examples too. For example, here’s a philosophical presupposition which got in the way of things, that in effect planets orbiting the sun had to orbit in circles because Plato said that the circle is a perfect two-dimensional object. And of course, we all know that planets actually orbit in ellipses, slightly flattened circles. But Copernicus found that the mathematical theory didn’t work that well because he assumed the planets went in circles. If he’d made a better assumption – they moved in ellipses – things would have worked out much better.